Report Shows Support for Serving Youth Charged With Violent Offenses in the Community

Posted September 12, 2018
Young people often are served best in the community, not in juvenile incarceration.

A new report shows that vic­tims of crime broad­ly sup­port serv­ing the major­i­ty of jus­tice-involved youth in the com­mu­ni­ty — includ­ing those charged with vio­lent offens­es — and it rec­om­mends ways to expand com­mu­ni­ty-based options while pre­serv­ing pub­lic safety.

Smart, Safe, and Fair: Strate­gies to Pre­vent Vio­lence, Heal Vic­tims of Crime, and Reduce Racial Inequal­i­ty, pro­duced by the Jus­tice Pol­i­cy Insti­tute and the Nation­al Cen­ter for Vic­tims of Crime, echoes grow­ing agree­ment in the juve­nile jus­tice field that reforms fall short when com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives are avail­able only to youth who com­mit non­vi­o­lent offenses.

Sup­port­ed in part by the Casey Foun­da­tion, the report found that vic­tims of crime and juve­nile jus­tice advo­cates agreed that com­mu­ni­ty-based approach­es should hold youth account­able while offer­ing effec­tive inter­ven­tions, meet­ing the needs of vic­tims of crime and keep­ing com­mu­ni­ties safe.

Con­sen­sus is grow­ing in the Unit­ed States that com­mu­ni­ty-based respons­es can be more effec­tive — both in terms of address­ing needs and pro­tect­ing pub­lic safe­ty — than rely­ing on con­fine­ment as a response to youth crime. Many juris­dic­tions, how­ev­er, stop short of extend­ing com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices to youth involved in vio­lent crimes. The report notes that plac­ing such bar­ri­ers on com­mu­ni­ty-based inter­ven­tions increas­es racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties, as youth of col­or often already face sys­temic chal­lenges that result in greater police con­tact and less access to diver­sion­ary options.

Based on its find­ings, Smart, Safe, and Fair recommends:

  • Expand­ing efforts to address the harm caused by crime in under­served com­mu­ni­ties — for exam­ple, increas­ing ser­vices to address trau­ma expe­ri­enced by young peo­ple of col­or who are vic­tims of crime.
  • Step­ping up invest­ments in approach­es that address the needs of young peo­ple involved in vio­lent crime and reduce the harm caused by vio­lent crime.
  • Acknowl­edg­ing that juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems need to demon­strate account­abil­i­ty, share infor­ma­tion and help crime victims.

The report empha­sizes that all young peo­ple in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, regard­less of the offense with which they are charged, should receive devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate care that engages their fam­i­lies and con­nects them to their communities.

Smart, Safe, and Fair dove­tails with the Casey Foundation’s efforts to safe­ly and sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce out-of-home place­ment across the coun­try, espe­cial­ly for youth of col­or. Dur­ing a ple­nary at the annu­al con­fer­ence of the Nation­al Cen­ter for Vic­tims of Crime, Casey Pres­i­dent and CEO Patrick McCarthy said that the report hon­est­ly con­fronts the sim­ple fact that what we are now doing is not working.

It is not work­ing for vic­tims of crime. It is not work­ing for com­mu­ni­ties. It is not work­ing for the young peo­ple who are incar­cer­at­ed,” McCarthy said. Instead, the report offers com­mon-sense, evi­dence-based exam­ples of approach­es that can work more effectively.”

Read the Smart, Safe, and Fair exec­u­tive sum­ma­ry and full report.

Relat­ed Youth Incar­cer­a­tion Resource

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